Low salmon numbers provoke protests, legislation, and a state of emergency

Next week is supposed to kick off salmon season in Oregon and California, but the Bush administration is expected to severely restrict or completely bar commercial salmon fishing due to a critically low salmon count in the Klamath River. About 100 angry fisherfolk protested in San Francisco on Monday. “If they shut this season down, they shut me down,” said one burly fisher and single father. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski (D) has declared a state of emergency for coastal fishing communities in his state. Fishers blame the feds, who divert river water for agriculture and run hydropower dams that heat the Klamath to a temperature that fosters fishy parasites. In 2002, almost 80,000 adult salmon died from what now pass as normal river conditions: low water, high temperatures, and disease. Three California reps introduced a bill in the House yesterday that calls for a salmon recovery plan, conservation projects along the Klamath, and $81 million in disaster relief for commercial fishers and related businesses.